Posted by Jerrod @ 10:22 pm on December 31st 2008

Who draws the lines between public and private in the Oval Office?

I was surprised by the amount of attention the internets paid to Obama giving up a Blackberry, but that story has become relevant again. The National Archives has recently made mention of the challenge of archiving the Bush administration, specifically the 100 some odd terabytes of electronic data. It’s an interesting issue; it seems that a lot of the problems would evaporate if the government would use non-proprietary formats for data. Electronic files should really be a boon to our national archive and the transparency of government but if they are inaccessible, there’s no point at all.

But what struck me most was an almost throw-away line about how Vice President Cheney has asserted that he and he alone is able to determine what is public and what is private, with the latter excluded from the archive. Really, that what is being reported, and no one else gets to check it. As I understand he made this case in court and a verdict has yet to be reached, but this strikes me as a very very important issue.

I’m all in favor of our government leaders preserving private space and it seems to be a pretty simple way to delineate it: If the contents are related to government service, it’s public. If it was written or stored on government equipment, its public. Really, though, there isn’t much of a President or Vice-president’s life, in this day and age, that doesn’t impact the public in some way. It’s one of the costs of doing business. But absolutely there needs to be oversight. We have to have that level of transparency. It’s untenable that someone like Mr. Cheney would be allowed to determine, on his own, what goes into his VP archive and what doesn’t.

Posted by Adam @ 7:43 pm on December 31st 2008

Time Warner Cable and Viacom executives to die like dogs

If they don’t arrange something so that Viacom channels continue to be carried on Time Warner cable, that is. As it stands, Viacom channels, which include Comedy Central and Spike and some music channels that young people watch inbetween playing World of Warcraft or having sex with each other (two largely mutually exclusive subsets), go off air at midnight tonight.

If today is my last all-day CSI marathon, there will be blood.

Posted by Brad @ 7:43 pm on December 31st 2008

Music Video of the Week

Happy New Year.

Bing Crosby – Old Man River

Posted by Rojas @ 7:17 pm on December 29th 2008

The bright side of bad government

Today’s Washington Post features insightful commentary on Bush’s hand-picked head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

Foulke quickly acquired a reputation inside the Labor Department as a man who literally fell asleep on the job: Eyewitnesses said they saw him suddenly doze off at staff meetings, during teleconferences, in one-on-one briefings, at retreats involving senior deputies, on the dais at a conference in Europe, at an award ceremony for a corporation and during an interview with a candidate for deputy regional administrator.

His top aides said they rustled papers, wore attention-getting garb, pounded the table for emphasis or gently kicked his leg, all to keep him awake. But, if these tactics failed, sometimes they just continued talking as if he were awake. “We’ll be sitting there and things will fall out of his hands; people will go on talking like nothing ever happened,” said a career official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to a reporter.

In an interview, Foulke denied falling asleep at work, although he said he was often tired and sometimes listened with his eyes closed.

Before you get too outraged, here’s the sort of thing OSHA does:

In early 2001, an epidemiologist at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sought to publish a special bulletin warning dental technicians that they could be exposed to dangerous beryllium alloys while grinding fillings. Health studies showed that even a single day’s exposure at the agency’s permitted level could lead to incurable lung disease.

God only knows how much damage might have been done by a more alert bureaucrat.

Posted by Brad @ 5:40 pm on December 29th 2008

Arrest Santa Claus

So says your friendly neighborhood Libertarian Party.

* Every December 25, the illegal immigrant known as Santa Claus crosses the border into the United States without a passport. He carries concealed contraband, which he sneaks into the country in order to avoid inspection by the U.S. Customs Service. And just what’s in all those brightly colored packages tied up with ribbons, anyway? The Drug Czar and Homeland Security want to know.

* Look at how this international fugitive gets around: Santa flies in a custom-built sleigh that hasn’t been approved by the FAA. He never files a flight plan. He has no pilot’s license. In the dark of night, he rides the skies with just a tiny bioluminescent red light to guide him — a clear violation of traffic safety regulations.

* Pulling Santa’s sleigh: Eight tiny reindeer, a federally protected species being put to hard labor. None of these reindeer have their required shots, and Santa’s never bothered to get these genetically- engineered animals registered and licensed. It’s no wonder: He keeps them penned outside his workplace in a clear violation of zoning laws.

* But Crooked Claus the Conniving Capitalist harms more than just animals — he’s hurting hard-working American laborers, too. Isn’t Santa’s Workshop really Santa’s Sweatshop, where his non-union employees don’t make minimum wage and get no holiday pay? Add the fact that OSHA has never inspected the place, and you have a Third-World elf-exploitation operation that only Kathy Lee Gifford could love.

* No wonder Santa is able to maintain his monopoly over the toy distribution industry: He’s cornered the Christmas gift market. Santa dares to give away his products for free in a sinister attempt to crush all competition — just like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Antitrust Lawsuit Memo to the feds: Is Santa Claus the Bill Gates of Christmas?

Posted by Brad @ 4:27 pm on December 29th 2008

What You Should Know About the Latest Israel-Palestine Flareup

Daniel Levy has it.

Obama is keeping his distance, and a lot of Israel-watchers think the Israeli government will have a rude awakening if it expects the Obama administration to be the mindless cheerleader that the Bush administration has been—what the region needs, and what the Obama administration may be, is not a collective of shallow Zionists, but a conference table of honest brokers.

M.J. Rosenberg, one of my favorite bloggers on Israeli issues, shares that hope, and his learned a lot from the Lebanon debacle. He quotes Dr. Asali, which I’ll pass on:

“I do not believe that the conflict should be seen any longer as pitting Israelis against Palestinians, but must be re-conceptualized as a struggle between those who are committed to ending the conflict based on two states against those on both sides who persist in clinging to hostility. Those who are prepared to recognize each other’s dignity and self determination in two sovereign states share a common purpose, and have more in common with each other than with their compatriots who are bent on conflict for generations to come.”

As for me, I’ve been a long-time Israel supporter who has since turned to cynicism and jadedness and some resentment. I certainly take the point that Hamas and Palestinian hardliners themselves have no intention of ever recognizing the dignity of Israel or anything even approaching it. But that’s ceased to justify (if it ever did) writing a blank check to Israel, and the center for gravity for who is holding up the process and who seems more persistent in clinging to hostility shifted with the Lebanon action and stays there. The United States and the global community has horribly botched their dealings with Palestine since Hamas gained its democratic legitimacy. Ironically, under the bluster, there is every indication that a two-state solution is possible from Palestine’s perspective. But for that to happen, some detachment, I believe, from Israel is necessary.

Posted by Brad @ 4:01 pm on December 29th 2008

Chip Saltsman: All Class

I’ve been keeping up a bit on the race for RNC Chairman. In a rebuilding period—to put it mildly—for the GOP, the position takes on added import as the party’s point-man for organizing, fundraising, and resource allocation. There are a number of candidate, but one of the biggest is Chip Saltsman.

Saltsman was Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager, and what Saltsman brings to the table is a knack for the grassroots. His ideology, such as it is, skews towards the evangelical, but his tactics are old school and effective, as Huckabee’s disproportionate organization strength indicates.

Anyway, as the race comes down to the wire, it’s the time for schmoozing party bosses and lavishing gifts and promises on RNC voting members. Saltsman, for his part

On Friday, the news broke that former Tennessee GOP leader Chip Saltsman, who ran Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, had distributed a CD to Republican National Committee members for Christmas featuring a song called “Barack the Magic Negro.”

“Barack the Magic Negro” is a parody set to the music of “Puff The Magic Dragon” and sung by an Al Sharpton imitator.

Representative lyrics:

“Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times they called him that
’cause he’s not authentic like me…

“Yeah the guy from the L.A. paper
said he made guilty whites feel good
they’ll vote for him and not for me
’cause he’s not from the hood…”

And so on. The CD also includes such hits as “The Stay-Spanglish Banner,” and 39 others in a similar ilk (lame Rush Limbaugh fodder).

The other candidates react:

The current chair, Robert M. “Mike” Duncan, who is seeking another term:

“the 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party,” Duncan said in a statement. “I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction.”

This morning, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, who has reportedly been mulling a run for the RNC chair, released a statement supporting candidates for the chairmanship who have taken a “firm position” on Saltsman’s decision to distribute the “racially-insulting song”:

“As the GOP Chairman in one of our nation’s most ethnically and culturally diverse states, I am especially disappointed by the inappropriate words and actions we’ve seen over the past few days,” he said. “I am proud of those party leaders who have stood up in firm opposition to this type of behavior.”

“Actions such as the distribution of this CD, regardless of intent, only serves to promote divisiveness and distracts us from our common goal of building our party,” added Greer.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, who is also seeking the top GOP post, has criticized Saltsman as well.

“In my opinion, this isn’t funny and its in bad taste,” he said. “Just as important, anything that paints the GOP as being motivated in our criticism of President-elect Obama by anything other than a difference in philosophy does a disservice to our party.”

Steele, being the black guy in the running, is trying to not take the bait too much, but still…

He said Saltsman’s attempt at humor was misguided. Technically Steele came to his defense. But, Steele implied that distributing the CD was a stupid move.

“Our actions and our words are oftentimes used to define who we are as Republicans,” Steel said.

Y’think?

Look, I’m all for not nailing people for their subjective senses of humor. Lord knows I make more than my fair share of off-color jokes that, if I were running for something, would likely be thrown in my face and taken ridiculously out of context.

But still. The political context, of course, is obvious. You’re running for the position of being in charge of re-branding the Republican party. And your Christmas present to the voting members of the committee is this?

And just in a personal context, I don’t think I hang out with anybody, or want to hang out with anybody, who listens to something like “Barack the Magic Negro” and thinks it’s funny enough to pass on.

The major RNC Chairman election event is January 7th, which will be a candidate’s forum.

Posted by Rojas @ 7:10 pm on December 28th 2008

Douchebaggery most foul

A group of relatives of the victims of Flight 93–the plane hijacked on 9/11–want to build a memorial at the crash site in Pennsylvania. So far, so good.

They want the ground to be broken soon, so that there can be a memorial by the tenth anniversary of the crash. Okay, fine.

In order to facilitate this, they want the Bush administration to empower the Department of the Interior to seize the land from its current owner. Uh…what?

Svonavec Inc. owns one of the last large chunks of land needed for the 2,200-acre memorial, including the area where the plane crashed Sept. 11, 2001. Svonavec’s treasurer Mike Svonavec has said the park service has not done enough to negotiate a deal.

White said Svonavec has not been willing to negotiate, and called that unacceptable.

“We’ve certainly sought to do this within in the process, following protocol as much as we possibly can,” White said Saturday. “It has gotten to the point where we fear we’ll lose significant momentum.

This takes emiment domain to a whole new level. Here we’re not dealing with an instance of a necessary public good like a roadway, or even at the prospect of increased tax revenue for local government. No, in this case the power of the federal government is being marshalled to seize private property solely for the purpose of making a group of aggrieved people feel better.

White, whose cousin Louis Nacke II died on Flight 93, said the group would favor Bush giving the interior secretary or director of park services the power to take the necessary steps to acquire the land before the administration leaves office in January.

He said the families understand that the outgoing president has plenty to do in his final weeks in office. But White pledged that the group would carry its fight to the Obama Administration, if needed.

“I think the rest of the family members and I feel there is no point at which we will stop,” White said. “Whatever it takes. As long as it takes. Whoever it takes. To do anything less would be doing a disservice to those that we love.”

One wonders how much of their own money White and the other relatives are willing to pony up towards an offer on Svonavec’s land. Or does this obligation to their deceased loved ones extend only to other people’s property, not to their own?

Losing a loved one doesn’t entitle you to become a douchebag. And even if we were to make allowances along those lines, seven years is enough time to get past any douchebaggery thus incurred.

I’ll add that, of all the many species of fascist roaming the American landscape, the Compassion Fascists are just about my least favorite variety. At least your standard thug just flat-out makes demands; he doesn’t pollute otherwise noble sentiments in the course of his thievery.

Posted by Rojas @ 3:08 pm on December 26th 2008

Special bonus 13th day of music

0. iwrestledabearonce — Tastes Like Kevin Bacon

At last, a musical performance that encapsulates the true meaning of Trouserdown. Happy holidays, everyone!

Posted by Brad @ 12:20 pm on December 26th 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Year

1. Asylum Street Spankers — If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day

It’s not hyperbole to say that this is my all-time favorite band, and this is my all-time favorite performance of one of my all-time favorite covers.

And that’s that. My 12 favorite Music Video of the Week entries for the year. Cameron appears to be taking up the mantle a bit, so maybe next year we’ll finally include some that aren’t mine (the less said about Rojas’ entries, however, the better).

Happy holidays!

Posted by Rojas @ 11:47 pm on December 25th 2008

Twelve more days

It is, after all, the giving season:

Posted by Brad @ 10:11 pm on December 25th 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Year

2. The Larks – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

Came across this looking for a totally different cover of the same tune, and just fell in love. My favorite random late night find of the year. It’s beautifully understated, so much so that you can almost miss just how darn great it is. But once it gets its hooks in, it’s unforgettable.

And next…#1!

Posted by Rojas @ 2:08 am on December 25th 2008

Merry Christmas, Plaxico!

A little less than a year ago, Redskins DB Sean Taylor was shot and killed in his own home by invaders. Police protection, needless to say, availed him nothing.

Earlier this month, New York Giants wide reciever Plaxico Burress idiotically shot himself in the leg while visiting a dance club. I make no allowances for the fact that he foolishly and unsafely brought a gun into a private business without its permission; nor am I impressed by a professional athlete visiting a dance club while on the physically unable to perform list with a groin injury.

All that said: today, the police raided Plaxico’s house. It is more that a bit difficult to imagine Mr. Burress being a danger to public safety given his current status. It is also not hard to understand why he might have firearms in his home.

Can this be explained as anything other than the police making an example of the man? Were he not a black man with cornrows, and a high-profile athlete, would he have been targeted? And is it possible that the police in New Jersey might have more productive things to do with their time?

Posted by Brad @ 11:41 pm on December 24th 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Year

Unlike last year, I was pretty set on the top three this go around.

3. Freddie Stevenson – Easy Now

I became thoroughly obsessed with this for a month solid. Must have watched it 200 times. What a brilliant vid. I went out and bought his CD, but nothing else quite captures the magic of this performance. Maybe one of my all-time favorite live performance videos.

Up next…#2

Posted by Adam @ 12:12 pm on December 24th 2008

On the cusp

CNN’s website is a treasure-trove of vacuous bilge, but this nonsense is outstanding. Written by Marian Salzman, the woman that CNN unironically lauds as having the keen eye and steady nerve to popularise the term “metrosexual”, it proudly features a groaning smorgasbord of moronic simplifications, stupid descriptions (‘cuspers’? I mean, really? Bandwagons are stupid enough as it is, and this one has “I’m a cretin” written on the side of it in large flashing letters) and pop-sociology, all held together with a thin glue make from pure, unadulterated claptrap.

It’s hard to pick a favourite part, so here’s three:

Firstly, moronic simplification:

Who’s to blame for the economy going into serious decline?

The short and easy answer is greedy boomers. This is the generation that knew better than their cautious, fuddy-duddy parents, the generation that protested, that had ideals and marched to the beat of defiant music: “Street Fighting Man,” “We Want the World and We Want It Now,” “Hope I Die Before I Get Old.”

Some crap about cuspers I can’t bear to re-read in case my eyes begin to bleed in sympathy with my brain, capped off with some rambling garbage about ‘change’, months after even the most unintelligent media commentators had given up on its hackneyed explanatory power:

Cuspers, the age cohort that have been living in the shadow of the boomers, now have even more reasons to stake out their own separate identity and values.

It’s taken a long time for this rising demographic to be recognized as a distinct generation in its own right. They’ve been called “late boomers” because they missed the formative boomer experiences of the ’60s, such as civil rights and anti-war protests.

They’ve been called tweeners or cuspers because they straddle the divide between Boomers and Gen X. American social commentator Jonathan Pontell has worked hard to establish their identity as Generation Jones.

There’s still debate about whether cuspers are even a generation apart from boomers and where the generational boundaries lie. But those arguments miss the key point, which is that Americans want change.

Finally, she saves the best for last, oh yes:

The cusper generation is as much an ideal as it is a demographic group, and that appeal extends well beyond the birth years that define it. Watch out for tweets (messages on the Twitter platform) that proclaim “Ich bin ein cusper.”

“Ich bin ein cusper”, yes, she wrote that. This may be aside from the main point, but I am gratified to see that she’s incorporated twitter, possibly the stupidest and most annoying thing currently related to the internet, into this thrilling conclusion to her piece.

This may be the worst article I’ve read all year, although to be fair I have been mostly avoiding Lou Dobbs and Larry Kudlow.

Posted by Brad @ 10:54 am on December 24th 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Week

4. The Mountain Goats – This Year

I love me some Mountain Goats. This became an anthem of sorts for me (though it’s been a very good year).

Up next…#3

Posted by Brad @ 6:11 pm on December 23rd 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Week

5. Chromeo – Tenderoni

Found this single on Pitchfork, went hunting for a video, bought the album, love it. It is, of course, ridiculous in its own way (the song, the video, and even the artists (Dave 1 and P-Thugg), but it’s also demonstrably, irrepressibly, unabashedly funky. And I can get down with that.

Coming soon…#4

Posted by Rojas @ 4:36 pm on December 23rd 2008

Going out with a bang

Possibly the unluckiest man ever. (h/t: The Midpoint)

Posted by Cameron @ 3:49 am on December 23rd 2008

Quiz time.

I consider my self fairly well versed in world geography and was a bit surprised when I couldn’t identify one of the countries on an advertisement on the back of a yearly magazine I was reading. I had to resort to a map to identify the country at the 5 o’clock position from Australia; the one at Australia’s 9 o’clock took me a minute, but I got it.

Who can name the one I couldn’t?

Click to see the big version.

Posted by Brad @ 12:53 am on December 23rd 2008

Interlude

So, I’ll be away for a week starting tomorrow, though my 12 Days of Music Videos of the Week will continue.

In the meanwhile, here’s one I forgot to put on my list (bonus video!). I became totally obsessed with Flight of the Conchords this year; I’d just cycle through their catalogue during slow days at work. Their TV show is sometimes hit or miss, but the live performances of their stuff is always genius. This is one of my favorites.

Flight of the Conchords – Beautiful Girl

Posted by Brad @ 5:10 pm on December 22nd 2008

Learn About Shrews

Why not?

Christmas-week blogging is kewl.

(more…)

Posted by James @ 4:55 pm on December 22nd 2008

A headline for the times… Iraqi PM: Shoe-thrower blames throat-slitter

This world just keeps getting weirder and weirder.

What’s next? ” Throat-slitter claims Shoe-thrower is Ass-kisser and that, in fact, Throat-slitter knows for certain that Bomb-maker and Cave-dweller enticed Shoe-thrower into Loafer-lobbing”?

Posted by Brad @ 12:27 pm on December 22nd 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Week

6. Gus and Fin – Blitzkrieg Bop

Two Scottish guys doing a ukulele cover of a Ramones standard. It’s what YouTube is for.

Next…#5

Posted by Brad @ 11:43 pm on December 21st 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Week

7. Peter Mulvey – Old Simon Stimson

I can’t even begin to express what a huge fan of Peter Mulvey I am. A hidden gem in the American music scene, and a MVOTW standby. He tours quite a bit, and if ever you get a chance, absolutely go see him. Change your life man. This is his only “real” music video (the rest is just a library of live performances).

Coming soon…#6

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 2:54 pm on December 21st 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Week

8. Joanna Newsom – Bridges and Balloons

Fine. Joanna Newsom is, I guess, an acquired taste. I’ve stopped trying to introduce people to her; some people just have a visceral negative reaction right off the bat and no amount of cajoling is going to change that. But from the moment I first heard her I fell in love with her voice and her style. And, as her career has progressed (her recent second album is phenomenal though very, very eccentric), I’ve become more and more impressed with her skills as a writer and her vision as an artist (in the non-cliched sense). Love her or hate her, there’s nobody else in the history of music like her.

Up next…#7

Posted by Brad @ 7:19 pm on December 20th 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Week

9. Tony Furtado – Running Down the Dream

A barnstorming acoustic Tom Petty cover, James approved! What’s not to love?

Coming soon…#8

Posted by Cameron @ 6:13 pm on December 20th 2008

Ponzi Scheme Collapse = Refund of Capital Gains Tax

It looks like the IRS may have to hand back $17 billion to the losers of the Madoff fiasco who dutifully paid their capital gain taxes on returns that were not actually there.

Posted by Brad @ 7:12 pm on December 19th 2008

12 Days of Music Video of the Week

10. Bright Eyes – First Day of My Life

Connor Oberst can annoy the shit out of my sometimes, but he can also be positively transcendent at times. This is just one of the best love song videos ever. Simple concept, simple song, but that’s what makes it so moving.

Up next…#9 (burn in hell Rojas)

Posted by Cameron @ 4:52 pm on December 19th 2008

2008’s Big Pictures

I mentioned The Boston Globe’s Big Picture before, but I have to pass along this three part collection of the best of 2008’s photos. Each picture is individually glorious. Here are 120 of them:

Part I
Part II
Part III

If you’re in the mood for some stunning space photography, check out the work in progress Hubble Advent Calender that’s being updated every day in December with a new picture to eventually make a total of 25. They’re on number 19 right now.

Posted by Brad @ 4:20 pm on December 19th 2008

Blago: “F You, F You, F You, You’re Cool, F You, I’m Out”

What an outstanding press conference. Looks like we’re going to have Blago to kick around for awhile, probably for a long time, through a grueling theatrical process. Awesome.

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